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Stressful questions in the job interview: stay cool!

Sometimes an interview goes very differently than expected. Sometimes HR managers suddenly resort to so-called stressful questions in the job interview. First of all, they put candidates under a lot of pressure and even throw some people off their feet - and they should. What lies behind these stressful questions is the realization that job interviews are far from being honest. Everyone wants to present themselves from their best side and has prepared accordingly. In order to crack this secret script in the job interview, HR managers use an old directing trick: free improvisation. How you can best respond to this ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Why stressful interview questions?

Of course, such stressful questions in the job interview are nothing more than a nasty rhetoric trick. Many HR managers use unusual to questionable methods in their interviews. And some people overshoot the mark by asking illegal or inadmissible questions that you don't have to answer, of course.

Most stress questions are not included, but are only intended to test the resilience of applicants and lure them out of the reserve. The personnel decision-maker wants to experience you quite authentically, so to speak - under stress, but without make-up. The first reaction you couldn't rehearse.

But you should still expect it.

Types of stressful interview questions

There are innumerable variations of these so-called stress questions. Most, however, can be broken down into these five types. As usual, you can download the full list of these possible types of questions here as a PDF free of charge in order to prepare for the interview if you have the opportunity.

These stress questions are typical:

Analogy questions

At first glance, these questions seem completely pointless and initially seem to have nothing to do with the job. Seemingly. In fact, the idea is that you are talking about yourself, but in a different context. In most cases it is about your motivation, your values ​​and (professional) goals. So, ultimately, about other facets of your personality and your soft skills. Examples of these types of stress questions include:

  • What's your personal secret?
  • If you were an animal, which one would you be?
  • If you could be a superhero, what superpower would you have?
  • What would you do if you won the lottery?
  • What three things would you take with you to a desert island?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What did you have breakfast this morning?
  • What do you do when you want to have fun?
  • How am I doing in your eyes as an interviewer?
  • What question would you not like to be asked?
  • What was your weakest passage in this interview?

Trick questions

Trick questions are particularly unpopular with applicants because they offer the chance to catapult yourself into trouble with an inconsiderate answer. The way in which candidates answer these stressful questions tells the HR manager a lot about the applicant's motivation, working methods and professional goals. Again, this type of question includes:

  • Why haven't your previous applications been successful?
  • How do you know you did a good job?
  • How would you describe yourself in just one word?
  • What's the worst quality others say of you?
  • Which of your previous achievements are you particularly proud of and why?
  • What will your colleagues here learn from you?
  • Can you think of reasons why someone might not enjoy working with you?
  • What can this position offer you that your previous one cannot?
  • When was the last time you broke the rules and why?
  • What did you dislike most about your previous job?
  • What does a company owe its employees?
  • How do you feel about being guided?
  • Do you have a bad day today or do you always act like this?

Provocations that are not questions

Sometimes stress questions disguise themselves as provocative statements with an open outcome. So they should evoke some kind of reaction or statement from you - especially if the questions try to put a finger into a potential wound or reveal a weakness. Examples of such stressful questions are:

  • Oh, already three months looking for a job ...
  • You studied for a long time.
  • So you have not achieved your goals in your previous job ...
  • I find it hard to imagine that you would fit into the company.
  • Tell me something about yourself that isn't on your résumé.
  • And that's what sets you apart from other applicants ...
  • But there are some hidden messages in your job reference!
  • So many internships - and yet you were never taken on.
  • You have never been far from your hometown or abroad.
  • I have the impression that you also applied elsewhere.
  • Explain the color red to a blind person.
  • Sell ​​this pencil to me!

Brain teaser

So-called brain teasers in the job interview are primarily aimed at the intelligence, creativity, comprehension, analytical strength and logical thinking of the candidate. Large companies such as Google are notorious for such puzzles, guesswork and logic puzzles. These include, for example:

  • How many piano tuners live in Chicago?
  • Why are manhole covers round and not square?
  • How many calories are there in a supermarket?
  • What is the felt on the tennis ball used for?
  • How hard is New York?
  • How many gardens are there in Germany?
  • How many sheets of paper are copied in a day in Germany?
  • How many times a day do the hands of a clock overlap?
  • What day is tomorrow if the day before yesterday was the day after Monday?
  • The numbers from 1 to 9 have been put in a completely new order, it is: 8 3 1 5 9 6 7 4 2. What is the principle behind this?

Funnel questions

This type of stress question has the unpleasant property of not looking at all like a stress question at first, but rather appears completely harmless. For example, the recruiter asks you: “How satisfied were you with the last project that you managed?” It doesn't sound like stress, does it? But then your interviewer continues:

  • How many members did your team have?
  • How big was the budget for the project?
  • How big was your share of the overall performance?
  • What problems did you have?
  • How did you solve this?
  • Why, of all things?
  • What did it do in the company?
  • Have you been able to save costs as a result?
  • What added value have you been able to create?
  • How can you quantify this?

As with a funnel, it goes deeper and deeper into the details. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, you may be able to cheat a little with the opening question. However, the deeper the HR manager digs, the sooner it becomes clear what and how you really worked. It goes without saying that anyone who has blown a lot of hot air beforehand will maneuver themselves offside when they follow up. Second, the funnel questions also provide good indications of the candidate's working methods and problem-solving skills.

Silence as an additional stress factor

Silence can also be a stressful issue. Of course, that sounds contradictory at first, because silence is neither a question nor a statement at all. But behind this there is a question: "What are you doing now?"

For example, suppose you've just given an answer to one of the normal interview questions. But the HR manager denies you any reaction. Instead of asking another question, nodding or asking a question, nothing happens. Completely unexpected.

In that case you shouldn't interpret the silence in the forest as a lack of interest or as a mistake on your part. You don't have to say anything wrong at all. But of course the HR manager knows that you are nervous and goes a step further by refusing to react.

But don't let that stress you at all and just hold out the silence for a while. You shouldn't make a Mikado game out of it either, motto: Whoever says something first has lost. But you can also - after about a minute (it will seem like an eternity anyway) - with a question: "If nothing interests you: I also have a few more questions of my own ..."

React correctly to questions of stress

Whenever you are confronted with such stressful interview questions, please NEVER take them personally. As I said, it's just a matter of luring you a little out of your reserve.

After all, it is only likely that later on in the job you will be under high time and performance pressure and maybe with your back against the wall. Then you can't stumble on and complain about the way things happened every time, but have to solve the problem. So your reaction is always a kind of work sample.

With all provocations, curiosities and the targeted follow-up - please keep a cool head. Sovereignty is now the greatest asset you can play.

With these stressful questions, the perfect or only correct answer does not matter. Many of the questions don't even exist. Instead, these can best be solved with the COOL formula:

  • Maintain composure.
    Stay calm and take your time with the answer. It's not a quiz and the fastest doesn't win anything. He's even more likely to lose - the chance to give a clever and well-engineered answer. Even more: If you take the time to answer and maintain composure - not even five minutes, of course - you prove that you are conscientious and that you are really getting into it. That impresses every HR manager. Spoilers who use the occasion to play rhetorical arm wrestling with the HR manager only disqualify themselves.
  • Signal openness.
    The goal of stress questions is to avoid hearing memorized pattern sentences. It is therefore wise to deal with such questions in advance and to recognize them (using the lists above). Please refrain from having complete answers ready, which you can then rewind at the push of a button. That doesn't work. Rather, demonstrate openness by saying honestly, for example, “This is an unusual question now. I have to think about it for a moment… ”But don't let yourself be drawn into the provocations or carried away by them. Too much openness is harmful. Gossip about previous employers or bosses is absolutely taboo. So if you are asked, for example, what others might say about you, your answer is better: “I can't speak for others - I don't like to talk about, but with people. Only recently it emerged ... "
  • Establish objectivity.
    Break down the tricky question into its individual questions in the subtext and answer them, if possible, using anecdotes and examples from your previous professional experience. Either-or questions that are supposed to lead you on the black ice (“What is more important to you: success in your job or a high salary?”), You should answer diplomatically without deciding which side to take: “My motivation is, always to achieve all goals. But of course the appreciation for it should also be reflected in the salary. "Additional plus points are collected by those who make a reference to the target company in their answer, motto:" I could imagine that for you and in this position it is also about ... "
  • Avoid babbling.
    Answer briefly. The further you go into your explanations, the greater the chance that you will gossip, digress or simply tell stupid things. Even if it is not always easy, you should try to keep your loud thoughts and reasons as brief as possible and summarize the most important points concisely. Ultimately, you don't want to prolong the stressful situation, but rather return to a normal conversation at eye level if possible.

Admittedly, when the stressful questions arise in the interview, the dialogue on an equal footing is over for the time being. It's not really nice and respectful of applicants.

But please put yourself in the shoes of the HR manager: Perhaps he has just had too many bad experiences with actors, cardsharps and bluffers in the recent past and now wants to see ... There is only one person sitting across from you with a job and his own weaknesses .

As long as the stress factor does not get out of hand, you can get involved in the game. After all, there was a reason you applied to this company. The HR manager is only the gateway to the job, not the job itself.

Those who keep a cool head and respond sensibly, often document better communicative and social skills than a written résumé could. On top of that, some technical weaknesses can be compensated for with the sovereignty shown.

[Photo Credit: Lemonade Serenade by Shutterstock.com]

Even more interview tips

➠ Job interview: all the tips

Job interview process
➠ Interview preparation
➠ Application questions + answers
➠ Job interview clothes
➠ Introducing yourself
➠ self-presentation
➠ End the interview

Interview types
➠ Second interview
➠ Assessment Center
➠ Stress interview
➠ Job interview English
➠ Video interview
➠ Telephone interview

Typical questions
➠ These 100 questions can come
➠ 25 trick questions + answers
➠ Stress issues
➠ What are your weaknesses?
➠ What are your strengths?
➠ Why should we hire you?
➠ What was your last salary?
➠ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
➠ Why did you quit?
➠ Inadmissible questions
➠ Inquiries to HR managers

Tips & Tricks
➠ Practice interview
➠ Interview mistakes
➠ White lies in the job interview
➠ body language tips
➠ Overcome nervousness
➠ Where to put your hands?

➠ Confirm the interview
➠ Postpone the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Cancel the interview
➠ Follow up after the conversation